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New Kennedy assassination documents: What will they tell us?

By Ian Shapira

October 21, 2017 at 4:00 AM

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Trump tweeted that he would allow thousands of documents surrounding President John F. Kennedy's assassination to be opened. The deadline for the federal government to release the files is October 26, 2017. (Reuters)

ORIGINAL STORY: 

President Trump is being urged to withhold the last batch of government documents that could shed more light on the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

A National Security Council official said in an interview that federal agencies are asking the president not to release an unknown number of files held by the National Archives and Records Administration related to Kennedy’s murder.

The 1992 Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act  — which was prompted partly by the Oliver Stone movie “JFK” — mandated the release of millions of pages related to Lee Harvey Oswald’s fatal shooting of Kennedy within 25 years. The final set of documents must be revealed by Oct. 26, and only President Trump has the authority to push back the deadline.

“There will be a request made to the President to withhold documents, absolutely no question about that,” said the NSC official, who agreed to be interviewed only on the condition of anonymity. “There are definitely files related to sources and methods that agencies are asking to withhold.”

The official declined to identify which agencies are asking Trump to keep some of the Kennedy files secret, saying only that the security council is coordinating the requests.

Related: [‘Foul traitor’: New JFK assassination records reveal KGB defector’s 3-year interrogation]

Earlier this month, Roger Stone, the political consultant and Trump confidante, reported on his website, “Stone Cold Truth,” that CIA Director Mike Pompeo wants the president to delay the record release for another 25 years. Stone, who co-authored a best-selling book in 2013 called, “The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ,” said in a Post interview that he opposes any delay.

“What is the government hiding?” he asked. “The issue now is transparency.”

This week, Stone told Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones that he spoke to Trump himself and urged the president to release all the documents.

“Yesterday, I had the opportunity to make the case directly to the president of the United States by phone as to why I believe it is essential that he release the balance of the currently redacted and classified JFK assassination documents,” Stone said on Jones’s show. “A very good White House source — not the President — told me that the Central Intelligence Agency, specifically CIA director Mike Pompeo, has been lobbying the President furiously not to release these documents. Why? Because I believe they show that Oswald was trained, nurtured and put in place by the Central Intelligence Agency.”

Stone said it wasn’t clear what Trump will do. “He did not tip off his current decision,” Stone told Jones. “We’re going to have to wait . . . but he was all ears. He took it all in . . . I think he’s going to do the right thing.”

Accused Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald winces Nov. 24, 1963, as Dallas night club owner Jack Ruby shoots him in a corridor of Dallas police headquarters. (Bob Jackson/Associated Press)

The CIA declined to comment on Stone’s assertions about Pompeo, releasing a statement that said: “CIA continues to engage in the process to determine the appropriate next steps with respect to any previously unreleased CIA information.”

The FBI declined to comment for this article and referred The Post to the White House. Trump spokeswoman Lindsay E. Walters released a statement saying the White House is “aware of the upcoming deadline” and that it was working with federal agencies to ensure that “the maximum amount of data can be released to the public” without “identifiable harm” to national security operations.

Some GOP lawmakers are pushing for a full release. In early October, Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced resolutions asking Trump to “reject any claims for the continued postponement.”

Related: [JFK’s last birthday: Gifts, champagne and wandering hands on the presidential yacht]

Experts who have studied the assassination say there are about 3,100 previously unreleased files that contain tens of thousands of pages of never-before-seen material. Additionally, the National Archives has another 30,000 pages that have been disclosed previously, but only partially.

They said the 3,100 new files are potentially some of the most intriguing because many of them concern Oswald’s six-day trip to Mexico City in September 1963, about two months before the Nov. 22 assassination. Oswald himself was shot to death by nightclub owner Jack Ruby on Nov. 24. They believe some of the papers might show the extent to which the CIA, which had been monitoring Oswald’s movements in Mexico, knew the magnitude of Oswald’s overtures to the Cubans and Soviets.

“I’ve always considered the Mexico City trip the hidden chapter of the assassination. A lot of histories gloss right past this period,” said Philip Shenon, a former New York Times reporter and the author of a book on the Warren Commission, the congressional body that investigated Kennedy’s killing. “Oswald was meeting with Soviet spies and Cuban spies, and the CIA and FBI had him under aggressive surveillance. Didn’t the FBI and CIA have plenty of evidence that he was a threat before the assassination? If they had acted on that evidence, maybe it wouldn’t have taken place. These agencies could be afraid that if the documents all get released, their incompetence and bungling could be exposed. They knew about the danger of Oswald, but didn’t alert Washington.”

On Friday night, Shenon published a Politico piece which, citing “Trump administration and other government officials,” said that the President was “almost certain to block the release of information from some” of the Kennedy files.

Jaqueline Kennedy and her children, Caroline and John Jr., leave the Capitol, followed by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and his sister Patricia Kennedy Lawford on Nov. 24, 1963.

Jefferson Morley, a former Washington Post reporter who has written extensively about the Kennedy assassination papers, said the remaining documents might include files on senior CIA officers from the 1960s who likely knew details of the agency’s surveillance of Oswald in Mexico City.

“What’s in those files could tell us how those men did their jobs,” said Morley, who wrote a 2008 book on the agency’s Mexico City station chief.  “Is there JFK material in there? Could be. There might be stuff on why we were interested in the Cuban consulate, how we surveilled the consulate, how we did our audio work, and how did we recruit spies there? We might understand much better why they were watching Oswald.”

Morley is also eager to read a never-before released transcript of testimony given by James Angleton, the CIA’s legendary chief of counterintelligence from 1954 to 1975, to senators in September 1975 investigating abuses committed by the intelligence community.

The files on Angleton and the other CIA officers are important because “these are not just major players in the agency’s history, they are major players in the Oswald story,” said Morley, who has a new book on Angleton, “The Ghost,” coming out Oct. 24. “Oswald didn’t come out of nowhere. Angelton was targeting him for intelligence purposes at the Cuban consulate in Mexico City.”

Morley worries that if Trump extends the deadline past Oct. 26, it could be a long time before anyone to see the rest of the documents.

“If there is large-scale postponement, the most interesting documents are the ones we wont’ see,” Morley said. “It could be indefinite.”

This post has been updated.

Read more Retropolis:

Like Trump, JFK was tested by white supremacists. Here’s what he finally did about it

‘He just beat the hell out of me’: When JFK met Khrushchev, the president felt strong-armed

Before Trump vs. the NFL, there was Jackie Robinson vs. JFK

The day anti-Vietnam War protesters tried to levitate the Pentagon

The LBJ vs. RFK hatefest was just as ugly as the Scaramucci vs. Priebus feud 


Ian Shapira is a features writer on the local enterprise team and enjoys writing about people who have served in the military and intelligence communities. He joined the Post in 2000 and has covered education, criminal justice, technology, and art crime.

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